There’s been a lot of national soul-searching in recent months over gender-based harassment and misconduct in the workplace. Almost every day another news story breaks about accusations against a high-profile figure in entertainment or politics.
But this issue is a far-reaching one that affects all industries. Including construction.
Harassment In Construction
Women make up only 9% of the construction industry. But nearly 60% of those women reported workplace harassment. And this number doesn’t include those who experienced harassment but chose not to report it due to fear of retaliation.
In a 2013 harassment suit in Ohio, a male supervisor told a female cement inspector that, “men are able to accomplish one thing at a time because they think linearly, but women’s minds go in ten different directions at once, and that’s why everything they do is half-assed.” The two parties later reached a settlement before the start of the trial.
It’s critical that employers implement policies to combat such harassment. If they don’t, many qualified women will be deterred from entering the construction industry. And this is at a time when 69% of home builders say they can’t find enough workers to complete their projects on time, or at all.
Joe Bontke, an outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, echoed this point. “We all share the common denominator of business necessity, and that business necessity is what brings us together. I’m talking to you from Houston, Texas, where we can’t even find enough contractors to rebuild after our floods.”
Legislators are taking steps toward ending workplace harassment. On November 15, a group of senators in Pennsylvania introduced legislation to ban non-disclosure agreements in settlements of sexual misconduct allegations.
“The secrecy [perpetrators] are given allows their misconduct to grow and spread to harm others,” said Senator Judy Schwank. “The law should not be an escape hatch from civil and criminal liability, and we are proposing just that in Senate Bill 999.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also released training and best-practices for employers.
The commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace identified five core principles for addressing and preventing sexual harassment. They are:
- Committed and engaged leadership
- Consistent and demonstrated accountability
- Strong and comprehensive harassment policies
- Trusted and accessible complaint procedures
- Regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization
Proper training relies on trainees’ participation and puts the emphasis on positive behaviors. “Instead of looking at the negative actions, let’s go back to what we learned in kindergarten, said Bontke. “We play nice with each other. When you hurt somebody, tell them you’re sorry. Clean up your own mess. It’s the golden rule turned into a commonsensical approach.”
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